Tutorial:Mariner 4

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Mariner 4 was the first successful Mars probe. Let's recreate it in KSP!


  • Length: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • For Version: 1.0.X


Step 1: Design/Build Mariner 4

Step 2 - Launch Mariner 4

Before you launch Mariner 4, go to the Tracking Station and time-warp until Kerbin and Duna are in the right phase angle for a transfer. If you don't know what the right phase angle is, go to http://ksp.olex.biz/. Now warp until day if it's night and launch Mariner 4!

  • Ascent

Follow a standard ascent pattern into orbit. Once you're in a circular orbit 75 kilometers up, decouple the fairings and deploy the solar panels.

  • Transfer Maneuver

Set up a maneuver node around the night side of Kerbin and pull it prograde until you get a Duna encounter with a periapsis below 3,000 kilometers. We can always make course corrections later. Execute the maneuver (you should be on the 3rd stage now).

Step 3 - The Interplanetary Cruise

Cruise along and make a course correction that leaves your periapsis below 100 and above 50 kilometers, and an Ike encounter with a periapsis below 15 and above 10 kilometers (you may want to use MechJeb for this maneuver). Once you've done this, decouple the 3rd stage and deploy your antenna. Switch to the 3rd stage and, using the MechJeb unit as a probe body, use the RCS to gently nudge Mariner 4 back on course (the decoupling will have knocked it off course). Then, using the RCS, gently back away and move the 3rd stage on an impact trajectory with Duna or Ike. Now you can switch back to Mariner 4.

Step 4 - Duna approach/Ike encounter

As Mariner 4 enters Duna's SOI, you may want to take/transmit scientific measurements. When Mariner 4 flies close to Ike, you definitely want to take/transmit measurements. If you want, take some screenshots (if you have Hullcam VDS, you can install a Kazzlebad on the craft before launch to get 1960's style images (black-and-white, grainy, etc.)).

Step 5 - Duna periapsis

Do the same thing you did for the Ike encounter and congratulate yourself on your succes. You can take screenshots of Duna and Ike receding in the distance as Mariner 4 flies away.

Final Word

Our first mission to Duna was a huge success! The real Mariner 4 paved the way for future Mars exploration, and hopefully this Mariner 4 will do the same for Duna exploration. Next, you may want to try recreating Mariner 9.